DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS (UPSC) |06 Jan 2021| RaghukulCS

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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS (UPSC) |06 Jan 2021| RaghukulCS

UPSC News Analysis

Kochi ­Mangaluru LNG pipeline

Context: PM inaugurates Kochi ­Mangaluru LNG pipeline – Government has concrete plan to move towards gas based economy: Modi.

Topic in syllabus: Prelims – Infrastructure, Schemes

About Kochi ­Mangaluru LNG pipeline:

·       The 450 km long pipeline has been built by GAIL (India) Ltd. It has transportation capacity of 12 Million Metric Standard Cubic Metres per day, and will carry natural gas from the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Regasification Terminal at Kochi (Kerala) to Mangaluru (Dakshina Kannada district, Karnataka), while passing through Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasaragod districts.

·       The total cost of the project was about Rs. 3000 crores and its construction created over 12 lakh man-days of employment. 

·       Laying of the pipeline was an engineering challenge as the route of the pipeline necessitated it to cross water bodies at more than 100 locations.

·       This was done through a special technique called Horizontal Directional Drilling method. The pipeline will supply environment friendly and affordable fuel in the form of Piped Natural Gas (PNG) to households and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to the transportation sector.

·       It will also supply Natural Gas to commercial and industrial units across the districts along the pipeline. Consumption of cleaner fuel will help in improving air quality by curbing air pollution.

route map of kochi-manglore-banglore pipeline

Bombay Natural History Society

Context: The two-day Asian Water bird Census­ 2020 commenced in Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday
under the aegis of experts from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), covering at least two dozen sites, including Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary, Kolleru Lake and Krishna Sanctuary.

Topic in syllabus: Prelims – Environment & ecology

About Bombay Natural History Society:

·       The Bombay Natural History Society, founded on 15 September 1883, is one of the largest non-governmental organisations in India engaged in conservation and biodiversity research.

·       It supports many research efforts through grants and publishes the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society.

·       Initiatives:

o   National Dragonfly festival – The festival was started in 2018 in order to inform the public about integral role played by dragonflies in our environment. The Bombay Natural History Society has been organising the festival since then in association with WWF India, United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and National Biodiversity Board of India.

o   Asian Waterbird census – The Asian waterbird census is an annual exercise undertaken in India by Bombay Natural History Society in association with Wetland International, in which enthusiastic birdwatchers count the birds by observing them near their respective breeding grounds. The exercise is a part of ‘International waterbird census’, an international exercise. It also aims to create awareness regarding bird species as well as health of the wetlands, which are facing severve threat amidst anthropogenic disturbance.

Qatar

Context: Gulf leaders signed a “solidarity and stability” deal on Tuesday after leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar publicly embraced, bringing Doha back into the regional fold after a three yearlong rift.

Topic in syllabus: Prelims – Places in news

Important locations in the gulf & the location of Qatar:

Important news in short

·       The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to treat the Central Vista project as a unique one requiring greater or “heightened” judicial review. A majority view of the Supreme Court said the government was “entitled to commit errors or achieve successes” in policy matters without the court’s interference as long as it follows constitutional principles.

·       Less than five years after its launch, an India funded free ambulance service is playing a vital role in Sri Lanka’s COVID­19 response, according to health sector officials.

Examples related to Ethics (GS-4) in today’s newspaper

·       The Bombay High Court’s Aurangabad Bench has allowed a transgender to contest village panchayat polls in women’s category, saying that such persons have the right to “self-perceived gender identity”. (Social Influence and Persuasion | Empathy, Tolerance and Compassion towards the weaker-sections.)

UPSC Editorial Analysis

(The Hindu & The Indian Express)

Not by digital alone

Source: The Indian Express

Written by: Rajendran Narayanan (Narayanan teaches in Azim Premji University, Bengaluru and is with LibTech India.)

Topic in syllabus: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation. | Development Processes and the Development Industry — the Role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders. | Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes; Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections. (GS-2)

Analysis about: This editorial talks about how over-reliance on digital technology has worsen financial exclusion in rural India.

Introduction:

·       Imagine if one had to travel miles and wait for several hours to make one banking transaction. This is a reality for the vast majority of the rural populace.

·       In rural India, an over-reliance on digital technology alone has widened the distance between the rights holder and their entitlements. This is exemplified in the pursuit of financial inclusion.

The Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) initiative:

·       The Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) initiative is a technology induced step in improving financial inclusion among other stated goals.

·       Various government programmes such as maternity entitlements, student scholarships, wages for MGNREGA workers fall under the DBT initiative where money is transferred to the bank accounts of the respective beneficiaries.

What are the issues faced rural population?

·       The beneficiaries face many hurdles in accessing their money. These are referred to as “last mile challenges”.

·       While there are some merits of online payments, the process of transition from older systems and the APBS technology itself needs more scrutiny. 

·       Workers have little clue about where their wages have been credited and what to do when their payments get rejected, often due to technical reasons such as incorrect account numbers and incorrect Aadhaar mapping with bank accounts.

·       The lack of any accountability for APBS (Aadhaar Payments Bridge Systems) and AePS and absence of grievance redressal would continue to impact all DBT programmes.

·       More importantly, the workers/beneficiaries have rarely been consulted regarding their preferred mode of transacting.

·       Lack of adequate checks and balances, absence of any accountability framework for payment intermediaries and a hurried rollout of this technical juggernaut have put the already vulnerable at higher risk of being duped.

·       This has created new forms of corruption as has been recently evidenced in the massive scholarship scam in Jharkhand, where many poor students were deprived of their scholarships owing to a nexus of middlemen, government officials, banking correspondents and others.

Other governance issues:

·       A survey attempted to understand experiences of workers in obtaining wages in hand after they were credited to their bank accounts.

·       Rural banks are short-staffed and tend to get overcrowded. Forty-two per cent of people in Jharkhand and 38 per cent in Rajasthan took more than four hours to access wages from banks. This was just 2 per cent in AP.

·       Overall, an estimated 45 per cent had to make multiple visits to the bank for their last transaction.

·       CSP/BCs appeared to be a convenient alternative to banks due to their proximity. However, an estimated 40 per cent of them had to make multiple visits to withdraw from CSPs/BCs due to biometric failures.

·       In general, for MGNREGA workers, a visit to the disbursement agency implies that they don’t get to do that day’s work and therefore lose that day’s wages.

·       Effectively, a worker in Jharkhand has to spend more than a third of her weekly wages just to withdraw her weekly wages.

·       The only way for rural bank users to keep track of their finances is through their bank passbooks. However, more than two-thirds of time workers were denied the facility to update their passbooks at banks.

·       Some workers get charged (45 per cent in Jharkhand) for transacting at CSPs/BCs which is meant to be free.

·       There are just 14.6 bank branches per 1 lakh adults in India. This is sparser in rural India.

What is to be done? How we can improve the system?


·       Using bank branch data, Robin Burgess and Rohini Pande demonstrated that branch expansion into rural unbanked locations significantly reduced poverty.

·       With technological advances, the costs of running rural banks will also be lower.

·       When the outcome is a significant reduction in poverty, additional infrastructure costs should be imperative from a policy perspective.

·       To deal with these, banking kiosks known as Customer Service Points (CSP) and Banking Correspondents (BC) should be promoted. These are private individuals who offer banking services through the Aadhaar Enabled Payment Systems (AePS).

Conclusion:

·       The right to work also includes the right to access your own money in a timely and transparent manner. These rights must be protected through strengthening grievance redressal processes and setting accountability norms for all payment intermediaries.

·       A technological intervention must have a governance framework in which protection of rights must be fundamental and which provides more choices to the marginalised.

Changing contours of India­-U.K. ties

Source: The Hindu

Written by: Krishnan Srinivasan (former Foreign Secretary)

Topic in syllabus: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests. (GS-2)

Analysis about: This editorial talks about India-U.K. relation, their shared past and what lies ahead for shared future.

Introduction:

·       PM Modi’s startling invitation to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who, due to the ravages of COVID­-19 mutations in the U.K., has expressed his inability to attend a truncated version of India’s Republic Day parade this month. Mr. Johnson is a colourful and controversial character, often portrayed in the British media as a clown, but no one can doubt his capacity for manoeuvre and staying power.

Why we are looking forward to engage with Britain?

·       India has a shared past with Britain and needs to chart a different shared future, now that Britain has left the European Union (EU). 

·       One joint enterprise will be as members of the UN Security Council where Britain has permanent status and India holds a non-­permanent seat this year and next.

·       And this year, Mr. Johnson will be hosting India as an invitee to the G­7, and the UN Climate Change Conference.

Why Britain is also enthusiastic about engaging with India?

·       From Britain’s point of view, Mr. Modi’s invitation to its Prime Minister was fortuitous because Brexit necessitates that every effort be made to seek commercial advantage in Asian countries with
high growth rates.

·       India has been fruitlessly negotiating a trade agreement with the EU since 2007, during which
Britain was considered the main deal breaker.

What are the concerns?

·       The EU wanted duty reductions on autos, wines and spirits and wanted India to open financial sectors
such as banking and insurance, postal, legal, accountancy, maritime and security and retail. India, as always, sought free movement for service professionals.

·       The same obstacles with post ­Brexit Britain will arise, because the export profile of both countries is predominantly services oriented.

·       In response to free movement for professionals, Britain will refer to its new points based system for immigrants, while after withdrawing from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, India is cautious about negotiating any new trade agreement, and will place greater stress on aspects related to country of origin and percentage of value addition in exports.

·       Therefore, when the time comes for a discrete agreement with Britain, the two countries may settle for
a limited one perhaps covering pharmaceuticals, financial technology, chemicals, defence production, petroleum and food products.

How strong India-Britain links are?

·       One and a half million persons of Indian origin reside in Britain, 15 of them are Members of Parliament, three in Cabinet and two holding high office as Finance and Home Ministers.

·       Before COVID­19, there were half a million tourists from India to Britain annually and twice that figure in the reverse direction.

·       Around 30,000 Indians study in Britain despite restrictive opportunities for post-graduation employment.

·       Britain is among the top investors in India and India is the second biggest investor and a major job creator in Britain.

·       India has a credit balance in a total trade of $16 billion.

The hurdles in Xi’s great power ambitions

Source: The Hindu

Written by: Yogesh Gupta (former Ambassador)

Topic in syllabus: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora. (GS-2)

Analysis about: This editorial talks about how China needs more than wealth and military power to achieve global leadership.

Introduction:

·       Instead of cooperating in finding the origin of the virus, Chinese President Xi Jinping decided to use the ‘strategic opportunity in the period of COVID-19’ to launch military assaults against Taiwan, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan to fortify China’s claims on disputed territories.

How Xi Jinping consolidated his power?

·       Signs of Mr. Xi being an ambitious leader were visible early on. Following his appointment as Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission in October 2010, there was a spurt in China’s militarisation of the South China Sea including recurrent forays into disputed territories.

·       After taking over as General Secretary of the CCP in November 2012, Mr. Xi consolidated his hold by eliminating his rivals in an anti­corruption campaign, pushing his relatives and friends into the politburo, and demolishing patronage networks of rival leaders.

·       He informed politburo members that he planned to make China’s voice heard in the international fora. In October 2017, Mr. Xi spoke of his dream of restoring China to a great power status (on par with the U.S.) by 2049 and building a world-class army by 2035.

How some of his policies are ineffective? & where China is lacking?

·       The policies Mr. Xi is following — state domination of the economy with increasing reliance on the public sector, slowing down of market reforms, accumulation of high debt, unproductive expenditures, lack of reforms in education and health, erosion of human freedoms, and increasing isolation of China due to his aggressive policies — will not take China towards greatness; rather, they will slow down economic growth.

·       China does not have the cheap migrant labour and favourable international environment that it had in Deng Xiaoping’s era.

·       Little attention has been paid to improve the quality of education in science, technologies and mathematics, which underpins the West’s success in its advances in technology.

·       The capability of high technology equipment like the fifth generation fighter aircraft, aircraft carriers and long-range bombers remains inferior in China as the country is unable to procure or indigenise advanced technologies.

·       Debt-ridden China is scaling back its BRI projects as many have become financially unviable.

·       Concerned about the growth of corruption and its impact on the control of the party, Mr. Xi has
slowed down market reforms, which were the backbone of China’s prosperity in the last three decades.

·       Despite being the second largest economy, China has few allies and friends (except Pakistan and North Korea).

·       Mr. Xi fails to realise that the U.S.’s status as a global leader was based not only on its wealth and military power but also the lure of its governance model, ability to coordinate responses to international
crises, and provision of global public goods such as freedom of ideas, quality education, foreign aid, encouragement of free trade, security of international shipping lanes and fight against terrorism. China has shown little interest in delivering global public goods.

·       Mr. Xi believes that China will be able to impose its will on the rest of the world by sheer use of power forgetting that besides China, there are a number of other countries are capable of resisting its abusive behaviour.

Efforts of Xi:

·       Mr. Xi has used all the tricks available to achieve supremacy in 5G, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and new materials, including forced transfer and stealing of technologies.

·       The concept of restructuring the armed forces and, particularly, introducing joint theatre commands has been borrowed from the U.S. Mr. Xi has commenced a rapid military build-up that is unprecedented in peacetime in recent history.

·       This is aimed at rivalling the U.S.’s military capability in a few years. China has the biggest navy in the world.

·       The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was announced in 2013 to seek new markets and allies for political, economic and strategic use. New ports for civilian and military use are being sought at Gwadar (Pakistan), Jask (Iran), Djibouti, Hambantota (Sri Lanka), Sihanoukville (Cambodia) and other places, to project power overseas.

·       Worried at the prospect of President-elect Joe Biden uniting the U.S.’s allies and partners in resisting China’s practices, the Xi regime is trying to divide the transatlantic alliance by offering increased market access to EU countries and vaccines against COVID­19 to ASEAN.

What lies ahead?

·       There is growing concern that Mr. Xi’s unfettered ambition to seek global dominance will create newer conflicts which a pandemic affected and recession hit world can ill afford.

·       Given that his colleagues in the politburo are unable to put brakes on his hegemonic ambitions, this year will tell us if the new U.S. President acting with his allies and partners will be able to do so to
prevent the world from sliding into new catastrophes.

 

Explained: On Nile, a Grand Dam divides African nations

Source: The Indian Express

Topic in syllabus: Geography (GS-1) | Policies and politics of developed and developing countries (GS-2)

Introduction:

·       Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt agreed on Sunday to resume negotiations to resolve their decade-long complex dispute over the Grand Renaissance Dam hydropower project in the Horn of Africa. The latest round of talks comes six weeks after Sudan had boycotted the ongoing negotiations.

What is the dispute about?

·       The Nile, Africa’s longest river, has been at the center of a decade-long complex dispute involving several countries that are dependent on the river’s waters.

·       Spearheaded by Ethiopia, the 145-meter-tall (475-foot-tall) Grand Renaissance Dam hydropower project, when completed, will be Africa’s largest.

·       The main waterways of the Nile run through Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt, and its drainage basin runs through several countries in East Africa, including Ethiopia, the portion where this dam is being constructed.

·       The Nile is a necessary water source in the region and Egypt has consistently objected to the dam’s construction, saying it will impact water flow.

·       The long-standing dispute has been a cause of concern for international observers who fear that it may increase conflict between the two nations and spill out into other countries in the Horn of Africa.

Why can the dam cause conflict?

·       Given the dam’s location on the Blue Nile tributary, it would potentially allow Ethiopia to gain control of the flow of the river’s waters.

·       Egypt lies further downstream and is concerned that Ethiopia’s control over the water could result in lower water levels within its own borders.

·       Egypt proposed a longer timeline for the project over concerns that the water level of the Nile could dramatically drop as the reservoir fills with water in the initial stages.

·       Sudan’s location between Egypt up north and Ethiopia down south has caused it to become an inadvertent party to this dispute. Sudan too is concerned that if Ethiopia were to gain control over the river, it would affect the water levels Sudan receives.

Why does Ethiopia want this dam?

·       Ethiopia’s goal is to secure electricity for its population and to sustain and develop its growing manufacturing industry.

·       Addis Ababa anticipates that this dam will generate approximately 6,000 megawatts of electricity when it is completed, that can be distributed for the needs of its population and industries.

·       Ethiopia may be hoping to sell surplus electricity to neighbouring nations like Kenya, Sudan, Eritrea and South Sudan, that also suffer from electricity shortages, to generate some revenue.

What is happening now?

·       Despite previous talks, the point of contention hasn’t changed: Egypt and Sudan are concerned about the filling and the operation of the dam. 

·       Ethiopia continues to insist that the dam is required to meet the needs of its population and has said that downstream water supplies will not be adversely affected.

·       But this has done little to pacify both Egypt and Sudan, with Cairo saying that the dam would cut its water supplies — concerning for a country that depends on the Nile for approximately 97% of its drinking water and irrigation supplies.

·       Sudan’s Water Ministry announced in a statement that this week’s negotiations are crucial, “for the resumption of tripartite negotiations on Sunday, January 10 in the hope of concluding by the end of January.”

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